By Jose Colorado for On Point Basketball
It’s a business.
In an industry where athletes operate in a robotic fashion, regurgitating the same old trite clichés at a nauseating rate, perhaps never had a tired expression rang more true for the Toronto Raptors collective fan base than following the news that fan favourite, Amir Johnson, had agreed to a two-year $24 million dollar deal with the Boston Celtics on July 2, ending his time with the franchise following six seasons.
The Raptors made a wise basketball decision in not investing further money in Johnson.
Johnson was – and is – an undersized power forward, increasingly injury prone and isn’t a consistent enough low post scoring threat to relieve the pressure off the guard-oriented offence of the current Raptors.
That is not to say that Johnson’s self-development and professionalism shouldn’t be appreciated to the fullest however. He left nothing on the table in his time with Toronto.
Johnson, who averaged 8.8 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game with the Raptors, was an integral part in the turnaround of the squad since joining the team in 2009 via the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yet, Johnson’s contributions to the Toronto community were two-fold.
For a player described as possibly every selfless sports cliché one could think of – unsung hero, glue guy, heart and soul, locker room guy, he exuded the same altruistic tendencies off the court.
From the six-foot-nine big man participating in the Zombie Walk to buying and handing out Drake albums, to treating his fans to dinner, Johnson didn’t just play the part, he was the part.
“Six years I’ve gave my blood sweat and tears to the city of Toronto,” said Johnson in a Twitter post following his agreement with the Celtics.
“You guys have seen me grow on and off the court. You guys are just as much a part of my life as I am yours.”
For a franchise where chastising and ridicule have become the expected norm for departing players, Johnson’s love fest with the city was mutual, but also a rarity that exemplified the NBA’s chilly climate.
Toronto originally signed Johnson to a five-year deal worth $34 million back in 2010 and while the power forward embodied an enthusiasm and exuberance towards the team and city rarely seen in franchise history, the Raptors still decided it was best to part ways.
The Raptors would not have progressed with Johnson as their starting four, nor – I suspect – would Johnson have been content with the role and contract proposal should the Raptors have wanted to retain him.
When Johnson returns next season as a Celtic, he will be inevitably enwrapped in an emotional rollercoaster, reliving the best years of his NBA career to date on the Jumbotron alongside the other 19,000 in attendance – a type of mutual appreciation few others in franchise history have experienced.
Written by Jose Colorado
Photo Courtesy of NBA.com
Edited by Drew Ebanks